Is Notre Dame’s Jonathan Doerer better on longer or shorter shots?

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With Notre Dame farewell this week, we wanted to write a few articles on topics that we think are interesting and we hope you will be worth it as well. Jack is working on an article analyzing Brian Kelly’s 4th Down decisions this year, which, following Justin Fuente’s disastrous decision-making last week, seems very relevant. And I wanted to work on the question that preoccupies all Irish fans: is Jonathan Doerer actually a better long-distance kicker than a short-distance kicker?

We have access to data dating back to 2014, so let’s take a look at the three kickers from that time period: Kyle Brindza, Justin Yoon, and Doerer. It’s clear Notre Dame has reached another level of performance since Brindza left the program, with Yoon and Doerer producing a higher than expected Field Goal percentage based on their skill level. It looks like Yoon outscored Doerer slightly, but it looks like he kicked much easier distances. His expected field goal% (xFG%), which is the average hitting probability of all kicks for a kicker, is 4.9% higher than Doerer’s. And it looks like Doerer could have some of the hardest kicks of any kicker due to the big difference between his FG% Over Expected and FG% compared to the average FBS Kicker from 2014-2021. So let’s take a look at the three Irish kickers but broken down by distance.

Doerer actually had a higher proportion of his long-distance kicks, naturally resulting in a lower expected and actual FG%. 44% of his attempts were from a distance of 40 yards or more, while in Yoon’s case, only 33% of his kicks were from the same range. When we also take a look at the xFG% of all FBS teams from 2019-21 (Doerer’s career as a starter), he also had some of the toughest attempts in the country.

And he’s been amazing on those attempts. Let’s start by pointing out that he’s not much better from an accuracy standpoint, as his FG% on kicks from 30-39 Yards is actually higher than his attempts from 40-49 (78.9 % vs. 68.8%). But it converts at a higher rate than expected when hitting at long range rather than close range. He achieved an insane field goal 11.9% above expectations and 7.9% above average so far in his career, while Yoon was at 7.7% and 5.8 %, respectively. Still good, but not like Doerer.

So despite all of this, why does it feel like Doerer can’t do the easiest but is automatic from a distance? Well take a look at his performance and Yoon’s from 30 to 39 yards and it will start to make more sense. Yoon was outside that range, beating expectations and the 7.5% and 7.4% average and adding 2.6 field goals to expectations. Since leaving the program, Doerer has been only slightly above average, his accuracy exceeding expectations and averaging just 2.1% and 1.5%. So no, your eyes are not fooling you. When we compare his performance against what we should expect, Doerer is a much better kicker over longer distances. But we were also spoiled by Yoon for 4 years with his close range performance, which jaded our perception of Doerer’s abilities at the same range. This is something most fans don’t hesitate until a kicker misses one, I know it’s true for me. So the next time he lines up for a basket remember, no he’s not more likely to take a longer kick, but yes he is. better to longer kicks compared to expectations and the average college kicker.


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